Friday, October 24th, 2014

In context: What Obama said about "fundamentally transforming" the nation

Fox News' Bill O'Reilly's interview of President Barack Obama aired on Super Bowl Sunday.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly's interview of President Barack Obama aired on Super Bowl Sunday.

During his pre-Super Bowl interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, President Barack Obama faced a question about "fundamentally transforming" the country.

Obama answered by saying, "I don’t think we have to fundamentally transform the nation."

This prompted a flurry of questions on social media, since it seemed to contradict a statement Obama had made during his first Oval Office run in 2008.

We decided that we couldn’t put this statement to the Truth-O-Meter, since the definition of "fundamentally transform" is too vague.

Still, we thought it would be useful to provide the two quotes in question side by side. So we will do so here.

Interview with Bill O’Reilly, Feb. 2, 2014

O’Reilly: OK. I got a letter from Kathy LaMaster, Fresno, Calif. I said I would read one letter from the folks, all right?

Obama: All right.

O’Reilly: "Mr. President, why do you feel it's necessary to fundamentally transform the nation that has afforded you so much opportunity and success?"

Obama: I don't think we have to fundamentally transform the nation.

O’Reilly: But those are your words.

Obama: I think that what we have to do is make sure that here in America, if you work hard, you can get ahead. Bill, you and I benefitted from this incredible country of ours, in part, because there were good jobs out there that paid a good wage, because you had public schools that functioned well, that we could get scholarships if we didn't come from a wealthy family, in order to go to college.

O’Reilly: Right.

Obama: That, you know, if you worked hard, not only did you have a good job, but you also had decent benefits, decent health care...

O’Reilly: They're cutting me off...

Obama: -- and for a lot of folks, we don't have that. We've got to make sure that we're doing everything we can to expand the middle class...

O’Reilly: All right...

Obama: -- and work hard and people who are working hard can get into the middle class.

O’Reilly: I think -- I -- you know, I know you think maybe we haven't been fair, but I think your heart is in the right place.

Here’s Obama’s original statement, in an October 2008 campaign visit to Columbia, Mo:

"Now, Mizzou, I just have two words for you tonight: five days. Five days. After decades of broken politics in Washington, and eight years of failed policies from George W. Bush, and 21 months of a campaign that's taken us from the rocky coast of Maine to the sunshine of California, we are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.

"In five days, you can turn the page on policies that put greed and irresponsibility on Wall Street before the hard work and sacrifice of folks on Main Street. In five days, you can choose policies that invest in our middle class, and create new jobs, and grow this economy, so that everyone has a chance to succeed, not just the CEO, but the secretary and janitor, not just the factory owner, but the men and women on the factory floor."